How to Fix a Bike Chain in 5 Easy Steps

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So, you’re out enjoying a beautiful sunny day, cruising along on your trusty bicycle, when suddenly, disaster strikes! Your bike chain decides to misbehave and disrupt your peaceful ride. But fear not, dear cyclist! In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of fixing a bike chain in just five easy steps. Before you know it, you’ll be back on the road, pedaling away with a smile on your face.

Understanding Your Bike Chain

Before we delve into the fixing process, it’s essential to understand what a bike chain is and why it’s crucial for your cycling experience. Picture it as the powerhouse of your bicycle, responsible for transferring the energy from your pedaling motion to the wheels, propelling you forward with each revolution. Without a properly functioning chain, your bike would be rendered useless.

Now, let’s take a moment to explore the inner workings of a bike chain. It consists of a series of interlocking metal links that form a continuous loop. These links mesh with the chainrings and cassette on your bike, allowing you to shift gears and maintain a smooth and efficient ride. With regular use, however, your chain can encounter a few hiccups along the way.

Common Problems with Bike Chains

Bike chains are an essential component of a bicycle, but they can experience several problems. Here are some of the most common problems with bike chains and how to fix them:

  1. Jammed Chain: One of the most typical problems with a bike chain is a jammed chain. When the chains get jammed, they make it difficult for the rider to move the bike forward, making it impossible for them to even take their bike to the mechanic. To fix this issue, you can use a chain tool to push out and push in the pins, allowing you to remove or attach links. Fixing a broken chain amounts to removing the broken link and re-attaching the remaining ends1.
  2. Broken Chain: A broken chain can occur due to several reasons, such as poor shifting technique, the chain being too long, or a worn-out chain or rear casters. To fix a broken chain, all you need is a chain tool. These are compact and built into many common multi-tools. You may even have one on your multi-tool that you never even knew what it was for! At home in your garage, it’s possible to repair a chain with just a hammer and pliers, but a chain tool is easier and really the only option on the street2.
  3. Slippery Chain: A slippery chain can occur due to a lack of lubrication. To fix this issue, clean the chain with soap and water, let it dry in the sun, and then apply the drip-on and allow it to set and penetrate overnight. A good rule of thumb is to clean and lube your chain whenever the chain starts squeaking, or if it’s looking gunky. If you’re feeling super-thorough, you can clean and lube your chain every 100-150 miles or once a week if you are riding most days on pavement in dry conditions3.
  4. Skipping Chain: A skipping chain can occur due to a worn-out chain or cogs. If your chain continues to slip, the chain or cogs are probably worn out. Have a local mechanic look at your bike and determine which needs to be replaced. If it’s the chain, you can fix it by removing the broken link and re-attaching the remaining ends4.
  5. Stiff or Misaligned Chain: A stiff or misaligned chain can occur due to poor shifting technique or a bent derailleur hanger. To fix this issue, you can adjust the derailleur or take your bike to a mechanic to fix the bent derailleur hanger1.

“Remember, a well-maintained bike chain is the key to a smooth and enjoyable ride.”

Tools Needed to Fix a Bike Chain

Fixing a Slipped Bike Chain

To fix a bike chain, you’ll need a few essential tools. These trusty companions will aid you in your quest to get your chain back in shape. Let’s take a closer look at each tool and how it helps in the repair process.

  1. Chain Tool: This mighty tool is the star of the show when it comes to fixing a bike chain. It’s specifically designed to push out the pins that hold the chain links together, making it indispensable for repairing a broken chain.
  2. Latex Gloves: While not exactly a tool, latex gloves are a handy addition to your chain-fixing arsenal. They not only keep your hands clean and grease-free but also provide a protective barrier against any potential dirt or grime.

How to Fix a Slipped Bike Chain

Oh no, your chain slipped! Fear not, for we have the perfect step-by-step guide to help you rectify this situation and get you back on track. Let’s dive in and fix that slipped bike chain!

Step 1: Stop and Assess When you realize your chain has slipped, gently apply the brakes and come to a complete stop. It’s important to ensure your safety before proceeding with the repair.

Step 2: Positioning Carefully place your bike on a stable surface, ideally with the drivetrain side facing up. This positioning will give you better access to the chain and make the fixing process easier.

Step 3: Locate the Slipped Chain Identify the exact location where the chain slipped off the chainrings or cassette. Take note of any twists or tangles in the chain as well.

Step 4: Aligning the Chain Hold the rear wheel and rotate the pedals slowly to guide the chain back onto the chainring and cassette. Apply gentle pressure if needed to snap the chain back into its proper position.

Step 5: Check for Proper Alignment Once the chain is back on the chainring and cassette, visually inspect it to ensure there are no twists or kinks. Spin the pedals a few times to verify that the chain runs smoothly through the drivetrain.

Step 6: Test the Repair With the chain back in place, take your bike for a short test ride. Shift through the gears, paying attention to any unusual noises or skipping. If everything feels and sounds normal, congratulations! You’ve successfully fixed a slipped bike chain.

Remember, preventing chain slippage in the future involves regular maintenance, keeping your chain properly lubricated, and ensuring it’s appropriately tensioned. By giving your bike chain the attention it deserves, you’ll enjoy smoother rides and fewer mishaps.

How to Fix a Broken Bike Chain

A broken bike chain can put a damper on your ride, but fear not! We’re here to guide you through the process of fixing it and getting back in the saddle. Let’s dive into the step-by-step guide for repairing a broken bike chain.

Step 1: Stop and Assess Just like with a slipped chain, come to a complete stop and ensure your safety before proceeding. Find a stable surface to work on, with the drivetrain side facing up.

Step 2: Identify the Broken Link Locate the specific link that has broken or become damaged. It’s important to pinpoint the exact location to ensure an effective repair.

Step 3: Choose Your Repair Method Depending on the type of chain and available tools, you have a few options for fixing a broken chain:

  • Reusing the Rivet: If your chain has a reusable rivet, you can use a chain tool to push the broken link back into place. Align the link ends and insert the rivet, ensuring it’s properly secured. This method requires careful precision and attention to detail.
  • Using a Master Link: Some chains come with a master link, a specialized removable link that simplifies chain repairs. If your chain has a master link, carefully remove the damaged section, then reconnect the chain using the master link. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation.
  • Using a Connecting Pin: For chains without a reusable rivet or master link, you’ll need a connecting pin. Use the chain tool to remove the damaged link entirely. Align the chain ends and insert the connecting pin, ensuring it’s fully seated. Carefully break off the excess pin to complete the repair.

Step 4: Check for Smooth Movement After repairing the broken chain, rotate the pedals to confirm that the chain moves freely through the drivetrain without any binding or resistance. Take a moment to inspect the repair for any signs of weakness or misalignment.

Fixing a Broken Bike Chain

How to Fix a Loose Bike Chain

A loose bike chain can affect your bike’s performance and lead to potential issues like chain skipping or even chain derailment. Let’s now explore how to fix a loose bike chain and ensure a smooth and reliable ride.

Step 1: Identify the Chain Tension Device Locate the rear derailleur on your bike, which houses the chain tension device. This device allows you to adjust the tension of the chain.

Step 2: Locate the Chain Tension Screw Look for a small screw or bolt near the rear derailleur that controls the chain tension. Depending on your bike, it might be labeled “B-tension screw” or “Chain tension adjustment screw.”

Step 3: Tightening the Chain Using an appropriate tool, such as a screwdriver or Allen key, turn the chain tension screw clockwise to increase tension. Make small adjustments and periodically check the chain tension to ensure it’s not too tight or too loose.

Step 4: Test the Chain Tension After each adjustment, spin the pedals and shift through the gears to ensure smooth operation. The chain should have a slight amount of slack but not sag excessively.

Step 5: Final Check Inspect the chain’s alignment and ensure it runs smoothly without any unusual noises or skipping. Double-check that all bolts and screws are securely tightened.

How to Replace a Bike Chain

At times, a bike chain may be beyond repair or simply nearing the end of its lifespan. When that happens, it’s time to replace it with a shiny new one. Let’s dive into the step-by-step process of replacing a bike chain.

Step 1: Gather the Necessary Tools Before you begin, make sure you have the following tools on hand:

  • New bike chain
  • Chain tool
  • Latex gloves
  • Tape measure or ruler

Step 2: Removing the Old Chain Shift your bike to the smallest chainring and smallest rear cog for easier chain removal. Using the chain tool, push out one of the chain pins until the chain separates. Remove the old chain from your bike.

Step 3: Determining the New Chain Length To determine the appropriate length for your new chain, wrap it around the largest chainring and the largest rear cog without passing it through the rear derailleur. Add two links to this length as a general guideline, but make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific chain.

Step 4: Cutting the New Chain If your new chain is longer than necessary, use the chain tool to remove the excess links. Remember to align the chain tool with the appropriate rivet and push it out carefully. Double-check the length and ensure a proper fit.

Step 5: Connecting the New Chain Align the ends of the new chain and insert a new connecting pin or, if applicable, install a master link according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Use the chain tool to secure the connecting pin or lock the master link into place. Ensure the connection is secure and that the chain moves freely.

Replacing a Bike Chain

Preventing Bike Chain Problems

While fixing a bike chain is essential, it’s even better to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Proper maintenance goes a long way in ensuring a smooth and trouble-free ride. Let’s explore some key tips for maintaining your bike chain.

  1. Regular Cleaning: Keeping your chain clean is crucial. Use a chain cleaner or a rag soaked in a degreaser to remove dirt, grime, and old lubricant. Wipe the chain thoroughly and let it dry before applying new lubricant.
  2. Appropriate Lubrication: Choose a high-quality bicycle chain lubricant that suits your riding conditions. Apply a moderate amount of lubricant to the chain, focusing on the rollers and pins. Remember to wipe off any excess lubricant to prevent attracting dirt.
  3. Tension Check: Regularly check the tension of your bike chain to ensure it’s not too loose or too tight. A properly tensioned chain improves shifting performance and reduces the risk of slipping or breaking.
  4. Periodic Inspections: Take a few moments to visually inspect your chain for signs of wear, rust, or damaged links. Replace your chain if you notice significant elongation or any signs of weakness.

By following these maintenance practices, you’ll prolong the life of your bike chain, enhance your riding experience, and minimize the chances of encountering chain-related issues.


Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of our guide on how to fix a bike chain. Let’s quickly recap the main points we covered throughout this article:

  • We started by understanding the importance of a bike chain and how it functions, along with common issues such as slipping, breaking, and loosening.
  • We provided step-by-step instructions on fixing a slipped chain, repairing a broken chain using different methods, and adjusting chain tension.
  • We discussed the tools needed for chain repairs, emphasizing the importance of a chain tool and latex gloves.
  • Additionally, we explored how to replace a bike chain, including determining the new chain length and connecting the new chain.
  • To prevent chain problems, we highlighted the significance of regular maintenance, proper chain cleaning, and appropriate lubrication.
  • Lastly, we encouraged readers to stay proactive in checking and maintaining their bike chains to ensure optimal performance and a smoother riding experience.

Remember, a well-maintained bike chain is key to enjoying a hassle-free and enjoyable ride.


Now, let’s address some frequently asked questions about bike chains to provide you with additional insights:

How often should I clean and lubricate my bike chain?

The frequency of chain cleaning and lubrication depends on various factors, including riding conditions, terrain, and weather. As a general guideline, aim for cleaning and lubricating your chain every 100-200 miles or when it appears dirty or dry.

How can I tell if my bike chain needs to be replaced?

Several signs indicate the need for a new chain. These include excessive chain wear, such as significant elongation or a “stretchy” feeling; rust or corrosion on the chain; and visible damage to the chain links. Regular inspections will help you identify when it’s time for a replacement.

Can I use any lubricant for my bike chain?

It’s best to use lubricants specifically designed for bike chains. They offer the necessary properties to reduce friction, repel dirt, and provide long-lasting protection. Avoid using household oils or WD-40, as they can attract dirt and may not provide adequate lubrication for bike chains.

Should I repair a broken chain myself, or should I take it to a bike shop?

Repairing a broken chain requires some technical skill and the proper tools. If you’re comfortable and have experience working on bikes, you can attempt the repair yourself. However, if you’re unsure or inexperienced, it’s always recommended to seek assistance from a professional bike shop.

By taking care of your bike chain and addressing any issues promptly, you’ll maximize its lifespan and enjoy a smoother, more reliable ride.

Remember, regular maintenance and a little TLC go a long way in keeping your bike chain in top shape and ensuring countless enjoyable miles on the road or trail.

Happy cycling!

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only. Always exercise caution when working on your bike and consult a professional if needed.

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